Cops gone wild: police recklessly opened fire in Vue shooting

Chris Juhn/MSR News View into the front porch front window. Family members said their 70-year-old grandmother was still in the house as bullets apparently aimed at Vue struck the house instead.

News Analysis

In the early morning hours of Sunday, December 16, Minneapolis cops fired what appeared to be at least several dozen shots at 52-year-old Chiasher Fong Vue at his residence on Thomas Avenue North.

The incident has prompted some to ask, “Why did it take that many shots? Were the police simply trigger happy? Why were the cops so wildly inaccurate?”

According to police reports, the officers were called because they got a 911 call reporting that shots had been fired inside a house at 3100 Thomas Avenue North. It is unclear exactly what happened after police arrived because the police reports have been inconsistent and the witness reports are unclear as well.

Police initially reported that when they arrived they got everyone else out of the house and sought to have Vue come out as well. “After an extensive phone call, the suspect agreed to come out,” said a police spokesperson immediately after the shooting on Sunday. “In fact, he did come out. Shots were fired. Officers returned fire and hit the individual.”

Vue’s daughter said that she had coaxed her father to come out, but when he saw the police with their guns drawn he ran back into the house and later came to the door with a weapon.

Later, police reported that there was a brief standoff and that Vue walked outside and pointed what they said at the time was a “long gun” at them, and they subsequently opened fire. The Star Tribune reported that “a source familiar with the investigation said that nine officers have been placed on standard administrative leave—eight of them fired their service handguns, while one shot a less-lethal weapon.”

One of the officers who fired his weapon was Jason Wolff, who shot and killed Mario Benjamin in August. “He had no business being near a gun after shooting somebody just a few months ago,” said Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality.

According to Gross, family members said they estimated 120 shots were fired and that the house, according to them, is uninhabitable. Gross added, “Family members said they notified officers that family members were still in the house.”

One neighbor who did not want to be identified told the MSR that it sounded like the Wild Wild West. Another neighbor, Jimmy Jackson, who lives on the other side of the block from where the shooting occurred, told MPR News that he and his wife had just gotten back in town when they heard shots being fired. “It was pop, pop, pop, pop, pop…and then you heard a pause. Then it was another pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. So it was like they just, you know, killed a guy,” Jackson told MPR.

The conflicting police reports make it unclear who fired first. Judging from one report, it appears open and shut that police were fired on and they returned fire. But later reports indicate that Vue may not have fired at police but simply had a weapon and, according to them, aimed it at them. This also leaves open the possibility, judging from past police and civilian confrontations, that Vue may have just had the weapon in hand and police may have shot at him simply because he had a weapon.

Police reported that bullets were found in the residence directly across the street from the Vue residence, but this is not conclusive proof that Vue fired first. The fact that there is no clear picture of what exactly happened leaves the door open to speculation involving different scenarios.

One possibility the police have not given is that Vue came to the door with a weapon to defend his daughter after seeing police in such large numbers with weapons drawn. It appears likely that he did not fire first, but rather police fired first and he shot back in self-defense. The police recklessly continued to fire. This scenario may explain why one officer inexplicably fired a non-lethal weapon at the man in his doorway.

Either way, the shooting has been hotly debated and contested by Vue’s relatives, friends, activists and others on social media who have publicly asked why the police fired their weapons so many times at Vue.

Chris Juhn/MSR News An estimated 120 shots were fired at the Vue House.

Family members said their 70-year-old grandmother was still in the house as bullets apparently aimed at Vue struck the house instead. Police have not been forthcoming about why so many shots were fired, and why, if they were indeed aiming at Vue, so many missed their target.

 “Given the amount of firearms training the police receive, it would be assumed that they hit their target more often than not,” explained researchers Dr. Christopher Donner and Nicole Popovich at Loyola U. in Chicago, who compared studies of various police departments’ accuracy. Their research indicated that in reality “officers are routinely inaccurate in their use of deadly force.”

They observed that “although the amount—and quality—of firearms training received by officers over the last century has increased considerably, there appears to have been little improvement in shooting accuracy.”

Studies conducted on police accuracy looking at large city police departments reveal that police are amazingly inaccurate, hitting their target on average about one-third of the time.

An article in “Force Science Institute” titled “New Study on Shooting Accuracy. How Does Your Agency Stack Up?” states, “Previous research conducted over a 15-year period with Dallas Police Department revealed that in nearly half of their encounters in which officers fired at a single suspect, officers missed their target completely. In 15 incidents, the total number of rounds fired could not be determined. But in the 134 cases where researchers could establish that figure, they calculated the hit rate, incredibly, at merely 35%.” In other words, more than six out of 10 rounds fired were misses.

In South Florida recently, police chasing robbery suspects who had taken a UPS truck and its driver as hostage shot and killed the suspects and the UPS driver along with an innocent bystander sitting in his car in rush hour traffic.

Ironically, the South Florida  incident, along with others like it such as the shooting and killing of the elderly Vue, raises grave questions about police accuracy and whether the general public’s safety—which presumably the police are protecting—is actually taken into account when police discharge their weapons.